Several readers had the same reaction I had to Obama’s claim that the computer was invented by government scientists to communicate better: “Huh?”
Benefit of the doubt defense: He was thinking of the internet.
Here’s a typical email:
Jonah, I send this your way since you impress me as being at least a psuedo-techo-geek.
Obama said something about the computer being invented by “government scientists” to “communcate” better.
He cited the computer as an example to bolster the Left’s theory that government scientists can simply be ordered by congress to create undefined new “green” technologies that will remake the economy, make us all rich and save the planet. The latest spin on the command and control mentality of the Left.
Of course, he’s from the camp that believes nothing happens (or has ever happened) unless government makes it happen. The free market only produces greedy Wall Street robber barons.
However, in this case, believing that the computer was invented by some un-named “government scientists” demonstrates such an astounding lack of technical knowledge (and/or history) that it completely disqualifies him from making ANY observations regarding the climate, the environment, or science and technology in general.
Obama – The Chancellor, er, Change We Need…
Update: From a reader:
It is very difficult to pin down what should be considered the first
real digital computer, but it is true that the most important early
advances in computing technology occurred during and right after WWII
and was driven by direct government interest in cryptography. This
wasn’t always *our* government, and much of the best work came out of
the UK although the US won the post-war race to commercialize these
The Internet was directly funded by ARPA (now DARPA) with a goal of
producing survivable communication networks.
So your correspondent is wrong about Obama’s “gaffe”. This is, at
most, a minor misstatement and conservatives who pounce on it will
look rather silly in the end.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but Obama is dead wrong. A lot of early computer development was carried out with an eye to military applications – specifically, calculating balistics tables for artillery during the 1940s.
A lot of development of smaller computers in the 1950s and 1960s was driven by a different military goal – better guidance systems for missiles.
But perhaps I’m not viewing things from the correct point of view. Perhaps Obama regards violence as a means of communication. This would certainly explain his association with Ayers and Dohrn!
Me: Here’s my position: When the transcript is up, I’ll take a look at exactly what he said. I’m sure this will be dissected by the technoblogs. I’m going to bed.